21 December 2020


It seems to me that I am quite often expected to hold two contradictory views simultaneously.


A news bulletin not long ago had, for its first item, a report about the Secretary General of the UN, who had made a speech in which he criticised Humanity for "making War" on Nature. (My immediate reaction was to wonder why he couldn't tell Nature to stop making war on Humanity ... or, at least, ask her politely what her terms are for an armistice.)

The second item in the same bulletin was about the war against the Coronavirus. The implication throughout was that this is good war to be fighting.

There was no suggestion that these two attitudes stand in any sort of contradiction to each other: is it good, or is it bad, to be at war with Nature?

Perhaps there are nuances here which are beyond me. Perhaps the goodness or badness of fighting Nature depends upon other considerations. I don't know, because I have never heard anybody explaining the matter.

Perhaps, indeed, the sword is light, sharp, and easily available, by which we can cut though this Gordian knot. But how come, that I am the only person ... as far as I know ... who has this problem? Am I uniquely stupid? 

Surely, even those who are laughing loudest at my obvious stupidity, cannot refuse to admit that we have here at least a prima facie contradiction.


I gather that the new vernacular Italian translation of the Novus Ordo disregards the explicit orders of Pope Benedict that "... pro multis ..." should be translated literally ("for many"). Apparently, it continues, with the connivance of the Italian bishops and of PF,  to translate it as if it meant "for all people".

There can be no objection to this sort of language on theological principle. The Authentic Form of the Roman Liturgy has the priest, at the Offertory, raising the Chalice and asking the Father to accept it "pro totius mundi salute". The meaning of such phrases in orthodox Catholicism is that the Salvation by Christ's Blood is available, without exception, to all who approach God in Faith and ask for it. Just as Warburton's Seeded Loaf is available for anybody, for the whole world, to go and buy in Waitrose's.

But, being suspicious, my apprehension is that the desire to mistranslate the Verba Domini over the Chalice arises from some form of Universalism.

Be that as it may, the Contradiction I sense here is that many of the sort of people who would prefer "for All" are also the sort of people who would raise their hands in horror at any suggestion that the Jewish people need to be saved through the Blood of Jesus. No, they cry, Israel has its Covenant and they need nothing more. Christians who try to proselytise Jews are very badly mistaken. Indeed, they are anti-semites.

But, in that case, surely the Verba Donini need to be further amended ... the Lord, surely, needs even more of their wise and gracious help from the Italian Bishops' Conference and from PF. The essential formula must be yet further improved so that it reads "This is the Chalice of my Blood, of the New and Everlasting Covenant, the Mystery of Faith, which will be shed for you and for all people except of course the Jews, for the remission of sins".

Again, elucidation of my own personal problem concerning self-contradiction may be easy. But, in that case, why does nobody ever offer explanations? Why are the cognoscenti so mean-minded to simple souls like me who just want help?

A final point applying to both of the instances above: in each case, the Thoughtpolice expect, indeed, peremptorily demand, that we should accept and assert both of the apparently contradictory statements simultaneously and with equally extreme vehemence.  

Perhaps we have here another example of PF's peronista enthusiam for self-contradiction? 





PM said...

On your first quandary, Father, Gen 2:15 may provide some help, at the level of principle of not detailed prescription: the Lord appointed man to 'tend the garden and keep it'. What counts as tending and keeping and what counts as wrecking are, it seems to me, matters of prudential judgement taking due regard for science, but the text gives us a way of thinking about it. 'Stewardship', which appeared in the writings of Benedict XVI, is another way if putting it.

There is another implication of Hen 2;15 which an Old Testament scholar once pointed out to me. Work, on this account, is not just a punishment for sin and the Fall but part of God's original plan. Rather, it is because of the Fall that we experience it as a burden and a grind.

P. O'Brien said...

Is Chesterton your ghost writer, Father? Your first few sentences could have come straight from his mouth.

Hickory Bow said...

By my lights, translating "pro multis" as "for multitudes" solves the problem.

Scribe said...

Dear Father, I was always disturbed by the change from 'many' to 'all', and was more than relieved when the last translation restored 'for many.' Matthew 26 v. 28 gives us 'shed for many' [pro multis], as does Mark 14. v. 24. (Luke just says 'For you.' John, of course, gives no record of the first Mass). I always understood this to mean that Christ knew that there would be others who would reject His teaching, and that the efficacy of both His sacrifices, bloody and unbloody, would (could?) not apply to them. I think that those who prefer 'for all' do so out of the kindness of their hearts: surely God wants to save all mankind? Yes, He does, but salvation is a two-way business. Aquinas had this to say: 'The blood of Christ has been shed for all concerning its sufficient power [quem ad sufficientam,] but only for the elect as regards to its efficiency [quo ad efficiam].' As always with Aquinas, there is much to ponder there.

Anita Moore said...

I wish somebody would explain to me how wanting the Jews to join me in the Catholic Church, and to be happy forever in Heaven, is anti-Semitic.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

The secular contradictions are not contradictions at all, unless you cling to outmoded Western superficialities. They are the unfolding of a Deeper Logic.

Here's the rule: anything which devalues and damages traditional Western values or institutions, all of which have been created by Evil White Males, is to be protected, promoted and eventually prescribed.

That is why, in my own collapsing country, the Balkan States of America, it is required now to worship men who assert that they are women but it is grossly shameful for a Caucasian to assert that they are Of Color.

Using the silly old patriarchal Eurocentric "logic" of consistency in principle, there's no reason why, if a male can be a female, a White cannot be a Black. But the Deeper Logic makes it all plain. It serves The New World Order to destroy gender (in order to destroy masculinity) but offends the New World Order to allow totally depraved Whites to masquerade as Sanctified, Canonized and Deified People of Color, thus escaping their indelible original sin.

See how that works? Not complicated.

Lady Jane Perdue said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke, You are not the only one who sees the inherent contradiction of believing the beautiful but fallen-affected natural world rules supreme, all the while it wages God-limited war against our obviously fallen but beautiful human nature.
It seems all of a piece if one reads Bible history & the front pages.

As for pro multis: Can we not be grateful that it is for many, not just for a few?

Anonymous said...

Suppose that a mortal sinner, aged 20, dies and is duly damned. Suppose then that a mortal sinner (the sin having been committed at the age of 19) lives to the age of 99, confesses on his deathbed and is duly saved. How does that work soteriologically and, as it were, equitably? Does it entail a species of predestination with which most of us would be uncomfortable?

I think the universalist challenge to doctrine is powerful. George MacDonald, influential upon Lewis, and David Bentley Hart, latterly, seem to me to be formidable on this notwithstanding the lumbering efforts of people like Feser (who is disastrous also on capital punishment; as are you, Father) to refute.

Traditionalist Catholics are radical, as Father demonstrated in his recent post when he talked of God's mercy extending to the most vile. The Lord came to save, I am sorry to say, Ian Brady and all other sadistic child murderers. Distasteful but true. Herbert McCabe, radically orthodox too, insisted upon it.

Is that infinite, majestically disproportionate Love frozen at the point of death? If so, how dull.

E sapelion said...

I agree with Hickory Bow, and I find support from Lewis & Short :-
—multi , ōrum, m., the many, the common mass, the multitude: probis probatus potius, quam multis forem, Att. ap. Non. 519, 9: “video ego te, mulier, more multarum utier,” id. ib.—Esp.: unus e (or de) multis, one of the multitude, a man of no distinction: “tenuis L. Virginius unusque e multis,” Cic. Fin. 2, 20, 62: “unus de multis esse,” id. Off. 1, 30, 109: M. Calidius non fuit orator unus e multis; “potius inter multos prope singularis fuit,” id. Brut. 79, 274: “numerarer in multis,” among the herd of orators, id. ib. 97, 333: “e multis una sit tibi,” no better than others, Ov. R. Am. 682: “multum est,” it is of importance, Verg. G. 2, 272.

Ed the Roman said...

Universalism is attractive in the sense that it seems nicer.

But it represents God telling even the most rejectionist, "I will not *allow* you to get away from Me. You shall be happy with Me eternally because I command it." Salvation is not an offer, other than an offer we cannot refuse.

If we say that they could only reject God in ignorance, Lucifer saw and knew God far more intimately than any mere man did while walking upon the Earth.

Banshee said...

As many scholars have pointed out, "to tend" and "to keep/guard" are exactly what the priests were supposed to do in the Temple.

PM said...

Indeed, E sapelion. Translating pro multis as 'for the many' would defuse much unnecessary controversy; the definite article in that translation signals that we are not talking about 'many' in an exclusive sense.

To add to Scribe's comment, Aquinas would say that universal salvation is part of God's antecedent will, which he allows the actions of free creatures (and the defects of material creatures) to impede, but salvation or damnation come under his consequent will, which is irresistible.

Michael Leahy said...

Anthony, if all are saved, it implies God is a monster, putting us through all the vicissitudes of life, all for nothing when He could simply have put everyone into Heaven to begin with, whether they liked it or not. As for your 20-year-old mortal sinner, you haven't died yet and so know absolutely nothing of what happens in someone's final moments. That 20-year-old would have been given an opportunity for choice. Not everyone would necessarily choose God-quite a few about the place seem much more eager to side with the devil. It would be equally monstrous to throw someone into Heaven for Eternity against his will.

As for the UN chap, by siding against mankind, is he not also declaring 'war on Nature'-isn't mankind part of nature?

Anonymous said...

No, Michael, Universalism does not preclude Original Sin; rather the reverse. There's a line by the fine (though, I think, non-Christian) poet, A. R. Ammons: "Origin is your original sin". I think that comes close to the truth that our creation necessitated our falling short - the emphasis is on "our creation" as a type of being but that is obscure/mysterious, I accept.

None of that makes God a monster; instead it makes The Second Person's redeeming incarnation also necessary. I think this could be aligned with doctrine.

As for my mortal sinners, I don't think you have met my point. The unshriven status of the 20 year old is assumed (I should have made that clear). The argument is that the 99 year old mortal sinner has more time in which to repent though he sinned at or about the same time as the deceased 20 year old. I have posed this question to faithful Catholics for a long time now and I have not received a proper answer.

Anonymous said...

PS Ammons, like Stevens, is a poet of the American Sublime and wonderful. See The City Limits, Corson's Inlet, Gravelly Run and Guide.

BrionyB said...

“Is that infinite, majestically disproportionate Love frozen at the point of death?”

I think it’s more that we are “frozen”, in that after death we are no longer able to repent, to accept divine love and forgiveness, just as the fallen angels are unable. I’ve puzzled over why this should be so, what exactly happens at the moment of death that causes it, but suspect it is a bit beyond my ability to understand. Something to do with us no longer being ‘in time’, no longer temporal beings, such that ‘change’ has become a meaningless concept?

Gizmo in Paradise said...

Anthony, it seems your underlying problem with the hypothetical you pose is a sense of equity. How can it be that two people who commit the same quantum of sin are so disparately treated for eternity? It’s akin to the discomfort I feel with the parable of the laborers in the field — it just doesn’t seem fair that the chap you worked for only an hour gets paid as much as the one who worked all day. While the error of Universalism fixes this discomfort and brings God’s ways in line with ours, I can’t help but think it introduces a new inequity — by commanding us to engage in (and sometimes be killed as a result of) the wholly unneeded activity of evangelization.

Syrian Church said...

What is evangelization after all? If it's the protestant message that you are damned and need a saviour - there's nothing particularly "good" about it rather than "news". It's all a bit silly to tell someone who knows nothing about it actually - "Dear sir - there once was your Ancestor Adam and his wife Eve - they ate a fruit from a forbidden tree in a garden created by God, which was infiltrated by Satan dressed as a serpent, therefore you are born in a rather damned state and need a saviour." Rather bleak and not "good news".

On the other hand, "Dear sir, you are destined for heaven by a God who loves you despite all the mistakes and screw ups in life. He loves you so much that he became human when no human could point out the vastness of the Father's love. God the Son wants to remind you that His Father loves you so much that when he was cursed, beaten and hanged - with the power to destroy all humanity - he used the opportunity to forgive everyone involved. He, having conquered death, went into the grave that held hostage all the souls of the people before him, and released them. You, friend, are already Saved, enter into the joy of the Kingdom. Let us worship him now in spirit and truth, and live in that joy in this life!"

Many of the Syriac fathers taught "universalism". Unlike the theosophical/new age stuff in the later West - but nonetheless a type of Universalism that is within the framework of Church teaching, emphasized heavily until the 5thCent.

Thorfinn said...

I would add to Anthony's point that Our Lord is rather unfair to all the mortal sinners who don't know the day or the hour of His return. All these other folks got to the moment of death to repent, whether 19 or 99, but not so for those caught unrepentant or even in flagrante delicto.

How much more sensible to worship a God of our own making! Too bad the price of gold is so high these days, but perhaps with some timely investments in Bitcoin...

On second thought, I seem to remember that Wisdom cautions against that course of action.

Anonymous said...

As I say, no faithful Catholics have ever met my point. Hope springs eternal, as does redemption.

Gizmo in Paradise said...

Anthony, you wouldn't happen to be a Scotsman, would you? I mean a true Scotsman, of course. Your last comment reminded me that I read somewhere that Universalism is hopefulness run amok, the opiate of theologians. While your hope springs eternal, I suspect no one will meet your requirements.